Are Setas just another tax or are they adding value?
Making businesses pay 1 percent of payroll to their industry's Sector Education and Training Authority (Seta) and then reclaim it by training workers sounds like a good way of forcing employers to address South Africa's skills crisis.
But in practice many businesses see Seta contributions as just another tax rather than a forced investment in training. The courses offered by the Seta that businesses fall under have nothing to do with their line of work, business owners complain.
In a recent letter to Business Day University of the Western Cape professor of management Douglas Blackmur accused Setas of being an unnecessary burden. "Maybe it's time to abandon the Seta model in favour of more direct and closer links between industry and the universities and the institutions of further vocational and adult education."
Services Seta chief executive officer Ivor Blumenthal countered his suggestion by saying that it was mostly universities that felt this way because they had never made any direct contact with business.
"Academics see Setas as a threat," he said. "They are training graduates for unemployment, because they haven't sold any of their programmes to business."
A study by the University of Cape Town showed that there were 200000 unemployed graduates in the country. Meanwhile government studies have shown a huge shortage of artisans.
Solidarity yesterday became the first trade union to align itself with the Services Seta. Blumenthal said that the partnership would be a "wake up call" for other trade unions to form alliances with Setas.